HERB FOCUS: Culinary Sage

Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis, Lamiaceae)

Parts Used: Leaves

Medicinal Preparations: Tea, tincture, infused oil, compress, wash, gargle, tooth powder, infused vinegar, herbal finishing salts.

Herbal Actions:

  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Carminative
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Diuretic
  • Bitter
  • Cholagogue (stimulates bile)

Medicinal and Culinary Uses: Classic garden sage has a special affinity for the mouth and throat, and is treasured as a gargle or rinse for sore throat, canker sores, periodontal disease, bad breath, and cold sores. It has a rich tradition of use as a mental stimulant and is often added to formulas to aid concentration, memory, and focus.

This Mediterranean herb is unique in that it can slow breast milk production and sweating. For these purposes, it should be drunk at room temperature in small doses throughout the day. Sage is commonly employed with motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) in reducing hot flashes during menopause.

Sage is renowned for its pungent resinous flavor, and its ability to complement fatty foods. Indeed, our taste buds may be speaking for our stomachs in this department, as sage is one of the best culinary herbs for enhancing the digestion of fats (by stimulating bile).

Many of us identify with sage as the quintessential stuffing herb; I like to combine it with generous portions of black pepper and anise seeds. Sausages are frequently spiced with sage, as is meat loaf. Sage is often thought of as the poultry seasoning, but it is equally at home with winter squash and roasted roots.

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